Saturday, 7 March 2015

Review: Chappie

World of Blackout Film Review

Chappie Poster

Cert: 15 / 120 mins / Dir. Neill Blomkamp / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

You've got to hand it to Neill Blomkamp, he doesn't exactly go out of his way to make his films likeable. Following in the footsteps of District 9 and Elysium comes Chappie, still in a dystopian South African setting, but more '20 minutes into the future' than flying cars and space-stations.

In a similar vein to Alex Garland's Ex Machina, Chappie doesn't spend much time postulating whether its central character can be classed as 'alive' or not, but looks more at the behavioural effects impressed upon a non-human being raised by humans (I was going to say 'deeply flawed humans', but in this film at least, there are no other kind).

First and foremost though, Chappie himself is outstanding. The visuals of the robot are so naturalistic that you instantly forget you're watching an animated character (and props to Dev Patel, Ninja and Yolandi Visser for supporting this so well). Sharlto Copley arguably brings more humanity and wonder to his role than the rest of the cast manage; maybe that's the point?

The problem (okay, my problem) is that writer/director Blomkamp can't seem to commit to the philosophical points he raises in his script about society, the nature of morality and the Promethean acts of Chappie's creator, Deon*1. However, the film also struggles to become the loud actioner that Elysium was, and the pantomime performance of Hugh Jackman (as the stupidest military strategist you'll ever meet) repeatedly knocks the film down a gear.

Oh, and it's nice to know that the next generation of automated law enforcement will be created in a manufacturing facility still running Windows XP on its machines (the PS4s featured heavily in the film put a fairly firm timestamp on when it's meant to be happening, and they're not even the most blatant or embarrassing product-placement Sony could wangle into the film).

40% Robocop, 40% Short Circuit and 20% Ali G (just to stop you liking it too much), Chappie is a fascinating film which pulls a few too many of its punches.

But by this point, you're either on Neill Blomkamp's bus or you're not. He's making films for himself first, his fans second, and to hell with them being mainstream friendly. Which already makes Chappie one step closer to pure art than most movies you'll seen this year.

Spoilery question for those of you who've seen the film: Why does Chappie flip out at being lied to by Ninja as if he's only just discovered that it's a human trait? When Ninja asked Chappie about the doll he was hiding behind his back, the first thing he did was say 'it's nothing' (probably more out of embarrassment, admittedly), so he's already got 'deceit' on his CV, surely?

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
If you're a fan of District 9 and Elysium, yes it is..

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
A rental should do you.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
In Sharlto Copley's case, it just might.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I think it almost does.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
No, I know it won't be to everyone's tastes.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There ain't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Chappie's maker is played by Dev Patel, who also stars in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series alongside Celia Imrie, best known of course for her portrayal of Naboo pilot Bravo 5 in The Phantom Menace

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Indeed, on the 'Prometheus' front, there's no caution, pride, regret, punishment or redemption. But to be fair, that's because Blomkamp hasn't re-made Frankeinstein, I suppose.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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